St Botolph's Aldersgate

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St Botolph's, Aldersgate
St Botolph without Aldersgate
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Diocese London

St Botolph without Aldersgate (also known as St Botolph's, Aldersgate) is a Church of England church in London dedicated to St Botolph. It is located on Aldersgate Street in the City of London.

Of medieval origin, the church survived the Great Fire of London with only minor damage but subsequently fell into disrepair and was rebuilt in 1788–91. The church is renowned for its beautiful interior and historic organ.


The church was one of four in medieval London dedicated to Saint Botolph or Botwulf, a 7th-century East Anglian saint, each of which stood by one of the gates to the City. The other three churches dedicated to St Botolph were St Botolph's, Billingsgate (destroyed by the Great Fire and not rebuilt), St Botolph's, Aldgate, and St Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.[1] Before the legend of Saint Christopher became popular, Botolph was venerated as the patron saint of travellers, which is thought to be why churches at the City gates have this dedication.[2]


Medieval church

The church was founded before 1291. The earliest recorded rector is John de Steventon in 1333. The living was originally in the possession of St Martin's-le-Grand, but on the dissolution of the priory King Henry VIII granted it to the bishop of the newly founded Diocese of Westminster.[3] The patronage eventually passed to the dean and chapter of Westminster Abbey.[4]

During the Middle Ages there was a hospital for the poor outside Aldersgate. A Cluniac foundation, it was suppressed by King Henry V as an alien house, and its lands and goods were granted to the parish of St Botolph. [5]

The medieval church was a Gothic building, divided by arcades into nave and aisles. There were three gables at the east end.[6] In 1627, the steeple was rebuilt in Portland stone, with battlements and a turret, and the rest of the church repaired. Many of the pews were replaced, and a new clock and dial were installed. The improvements cost, in total, £415. The medieval church was 78 feet (24 m) long and 51 feet (16 m) wide. The 17th-century steeple was about 65 feet (20 m) high, and contained six bells.[7] In an account published in 1773 the church is described as having galleries on the north and west sides, oak pews, and a carved oak pulpit.[7]

Eighteenth-century rebuilding

Interior of the church

The church escaped the Great Fire of London with only minor damage,[7] but, having become unsafe, was demolished[6] and rebuilt in its present form in 1788-91[8] under the supervision of Nathaniel Wright, surveyor to the north district of the City of London.[9] The new church was built of brick, with a low square bell tower at the west end constructed on the remains of its stone predecessor.[9]

The plain exterior is in contrast to what John Betjeman called an "exalting" succession of features inside.[10] The interior has wooden galleries supported on square panelled columns, a semi-circular apse with a half dome, a highly decorated plasterwork ceiling, and, at the east end the only 18th century stained glass window in the City of London, a depiction of The Agony in the Garden[11] painted by James Pearson.[12] The stained glass in the aisles is partly Victorian, and partly from the 1940s.[12] Some monuments were preserved from the old church, including the tomb of Anne Packington, who died in 1563.[6] The organ, in a gallery at the west end,[9] is by Samuel Green and dates from 1788.[12]

The east façade, towards Aldersgate Street, is a screen wall, erected in 1831 and executed in Roman cement, with a pediment and four attached Ionic columns standing on a high plinth, with a Venetian window between them.[6][9]

The church underwent several restorations during the 19th and 20th centuries, and many of the furnishings are from the late 19th century.[9] From the mid-1980s the church was restored by Caroe & Partners. Work on the east front was completed in 2008.[12]


St Botolph's viewed from Postman's Park, part of which was the formerly the parish churchyard.

St Botolph's churchyard[13] was combined with those of St Leonard, Foster Lane, and Christchurch, Newgate Street, into Postman's Park in 1880,[14] and this now contains the Watts Memorial to Historic Self-Sacrifice, commemorating civilian Londoners who died heroic deaths.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.[9]

Current use

Currently, St Botolph's, Aldersgate is used by the London City Presbyterian Church, a congregation of the Free Church of Scotland, that meets there every Sunday. During the week, the building is used for lunchtime services, under the auspices of St Helen's Bishopsgate, Church of England. It is also the rehearsal venue of the Amati Orchestra.


  1. Daniell, A,E. (1896). London City Churches. London: Constable. p. 317.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Richardsn, John (2001) The Annals of London: A Year-by-year Record of a Thousand Years of History, W&N, ISBN 978-1841881355 (p. 16)
  3. Jenkinson, Wilberforce (1917). London Churches Before the Great Fire. London: Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge. p. 109.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Newcourt, Richard (1708). Repetorium Ecclesiasticum Parochiale Londinense. 1. London. p. 106.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. British History Online 'Religious Houses: Hospitals', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century (1969), pp. 204-212. Date accessed: 3 January 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Godwin, George; John Britton (1839). The Churches of London: A History and Description of the Ecclesiastical Edifices of the Metropolis. London: C. Tilt.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Seymour, Robert (1733). A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Borough of Southwark, and Parts Adjacent. 1. London: T. Read. p. 619.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Cobb, G. (1942). The Old Churches of London. London: Batsford.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Historic England. "Details from image database (199275)". Images of England.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Betjeman, John (1967). The City of London Churches. Andover: Pitkin. ISBN 0-85372-112-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "The London Encyclopaedia" Hibbert,C;Weinreb,D;Keay,J: London, Pan Macmillan, 1983 (rev 1993,2008) ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "Architectural Background" (PDF). Guild Church of St. Botolph without Aldersgate. Retrieved 5 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Now much reduced since the late nineteenth century when many bodies were disinterred and reburied at Brookwood Cemetery Clarke, J.M (2006). The Brookwood Necropolis Railway. Usk: Oasdale. ISBN 978-0-85361-655-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Pevsner,N. and Bradley, S. (1998). London:the City Churches. New Haven: Yale. ISBN 0-300-09655-0.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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